I am often inspired by conversations I have that cause me to think there is something important I need to share with you.
A recent conversation with a GC revolved around the idea that your job as a lawyer is to make sure that you understand as much as possible about that GC’s business before you begin to offer recommendations.
The way he expressed this notion was as if this was a bit of a novel approach.
Watch or Read…Your Choice
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My GC friend said that lawyers need to learn to ask questions. They need to ask for business plans. Lawyers need to ask for documents, even financial documents when it is appropriate, so that context is available when you as a lawyer then start to offer your recommendations.
This Is Not The Best Approach
What you ask to see and understand from your client and potential clients is going to be different in every situation, but one approach that will not change is that your job is rarely to go in with guns blazing, selling what you do, talking about how you do what you do, what your background is, and why you would be a good choice for that person’s business.
A Better Approach
At this stage, you are on a fact-finding mission. You are there to try to find out what is going on in that person’s, company’s, or organization’s life that has caused this meeting. The better approach, which you always want to adapt to your situation, is to practice the fundamentals:
- Ask questions
- Get to know the person
- Establish rapport first and let that person know that you are approachable, that you care, that you are a very good listener
- Demonstrate that you read any materials shared in advance
- Let your comments show that you did a bit of research to get to know the person and the company before your meeting
At This Stage, Here Is Your Job
Your job is to be inquisitive. Your goal is to ask a question, listen to the answer, then continue to ask follow-up questions based on the answer you’ve been given.
As a professional with an immense amount of knowledge in your practice area, when someone starts talking about a particular issue, you begin to form a picture of what is going on. You know (at least) ten layers deep what might be going on with that person or company.
You have the ability as a lawyer, as a professional, to then ask follow-up questions that might uncover additional thoughts, ideas, and challenges that person might not have thought about, but that you know or suspect are present.
The Two-Call Concept
My first few jobs out of college were in sales. I had very good sales training, and I am thankful for that. We were trained on what was called the two-call concept. This was pretty heavy direct sales, so it is not apples-to-apples with what you go through. Stick with me for a moment, though, because it still applies to professionals like you.
Here is a general overview of 2 weeks of intense sales training we were given before we were ever allowed to look at a client:
- We first looked at what we had in their history, which you know as CRM, to learn as much as we could.
- We were taught to then meet with our client or potential client the first time and do nothing but get to know that person and their business.
- We learned about their history, discussing how they got to where they are today.
- We looked at products, asked about services, and learned about clients and customers.
- We asked questions to see if what we learned prior to our meeting was still relevant.
- We were there to learn what had changed in their business, as well as to see if there was anything going on that we needed to know before we moved forward to the solution phase.
- We were there to find out what the most important development was that was going on in their business that they were focusing on at that time.
This Skill Is One Of The Most Important
Our job then, and to this day in my company, was to ask as many follow-up questions as we needed to, respectful of their time, of course, so we could then go away, think about our conversation, and craft a solution that had context to what we had talked about with our potential client.
You Need To Show You Care
When this level of care, conversation, questioning, research, and follow-up is exercised, this tells your clients and potential clients that you have taken time to take them into consideration, to take their situation into consideration, and to problem-solve accordingly.
These steps are critical because if you go in there with the intent to secure their business by launching into a presentation about what you do, for whom you do it, and why you want their business without taking the time to learn as much as you can about that client, then you are sending a very strong message that you really only care about yourself and getting that piece of business.
Compare that to learning about your potential client, figuring out what is going on either on the surface or deep down that they may not even be able to articulate yet, asking questions, listening, and letting them know what you are hearing them say, then taking the time to offer solutions that you believe will match their situation. Doesn’t this approach feel much better?
My Suggestions For You
My suggestions for you are to:
- Take the time and learn these skills.
- Become an amazing listener.
- Be inquisitive.
- Learn the art of the follow-up question.
- Take notes when you can, or whenever possible. They will be invaluable to you as you craft your approach to their situation.
These steps and skills should help you build a stronger relationship with that person because you have sent them the message that you care, and that you are a true professional.
These skills will help you stand out.
These skills should not, as my GC contact in my conversation implied, be novel.
These skills should not be rare for lawyers.
Take time to learn these skills, to practice them, and to let that client and potential client know you are there not to sell what you have but to learn about their situation.
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Advisor, specializing in Content, Social & Digital Media. She helps lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines in order to establish relationships and grow their practices. Also known as the LinkedIn Coach For Lawyers, she is a frequent LinkedIn trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement content, social and digital media strategies that cut through the clutter and are more relevant to their current and potential clients. Nancy also works with many firms and lawyers on Zoom and virtual presentation training and coaching to be the best they can be when presenting online.
As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasting, video marketing, voice marketing, livestreaming, and Zoom and virtual presentation strategy and training. She also helps lead select law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases.
If you would like to reserve time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here.